For all my love of books, I regret that I ignored a wonderful set available on the bookshelves of my home when I was a child. My grandparents had the 1909 edition of Journeys Through Bookland, a collection in ten volumes of children's literature, poetry, and fables with black and white illustrated plates and pen and ink illustrations. I believe I opened the books once or twice but was disappointed by the absence of color illustrations. What a shame to have ignored these wonderful books.
Comments from readers of this blog continued to mention fairy tales. Lynn Suiter wrote: "Strangely, the Norwegian fairy tale, "Three Billy Goats Gruff" comes to mind as an early memory. All I can remember is the goats need to cross a bridge to get to grass for eating. Under the bridge is a mean troll who eats anyone passing. I can't remember being scared of this plot but that it was so far fetched." I, too, remember this tale. It is one of the fairy tales collected by Asbjornsen and Moe. The plot is similar to other fairy tales involving "eat-me-when-I'm-fatter," such as Hansel and Gretel.
Jill Bowden provided a special surprise by posting pictures of the covers of some of her childhood favorites--"Jack & Jill magazine, Nancy Drew, My Big Story Book, Read with Dick & Jane" and the cover pictured to the left, "The Red Fairy Book." She added, "I also read Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott." We certainly would not want to forget learning to read with the "Dick and Jane" books.
Linda Koebrich spotted the image of "365 Bedtime stories" and wrote, "Loved that book." Nancy Moore, who shared her favorites last week, added her children and grandchildren's favorites, admitting that it was "hard to get all the way through because we kept laughing so hard!" Those books are "Berenstiens B Book," in which almost every word starts with B, and "Because a Little Bug Went Ca-Choo," in which one action creates a long list of reactions!" Genile Allton Rawson chose "The Trixie Belden mystery series [which she] started reading at age 10 and couldn't put them down."
One of the first replies to my call for followers to share their favorites came from Wes Fisk, who even provided biographical information about his favorite author, Dr. Thomas Clark Hinkle. Hinkle was born in Illinois but came to Kansas with his parents in a covered wagon when he was two. First ordained as a minister, he then became a doctor. However, he found time to write more than 24 books for children about horses and dogs. Wes said, "I loved his books."
Allan Hingston included books about dogs among his favorites, but he regretted the disappearance of some old favorites. "Books I don't see anymore are ones like [The Adventures of] Ol Mistah Buzzard." Its author, Thornton W. Burgess was a naturalist and conservationist who wrote more than 100 books, as well as countless short stories. His books were filled with characters like Little Joe Otter, Grandfather Frog, and Buster Bear. Fortunately, new editions are still available on Amazon.
Along with book titles, people shared wonderful stories. Linda Nathan wrote: "When I was a young child my family lived two blocks from the library in San Bernardino, California. The children/young adults' library was located below street level with a separate street entrance down steps from the sidewalk. It was a much safer time and at age five my parents began to allow me to make the two block walk by myself. ...It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair with books and reading." She admitted that some days she checked out the 3 book limit in the morning and returned those for 3 more in the afternoon.
After reading the stories in last week's blog, Linda added "They bring back many good memories--reading Zane Grey westerns aloud to my younger sister, hiding a book in the bathroom, and making my dad angry when the dishwater got cold while I was happily reading away. Little Golden Books, Nancy Drew, Little House Books, Little Women. Oh my!"
In my earlier blog about children's books I said I did not know what Isaac B. Werner read as a child. I still do not know, but given his love of Shakespeare, I think it is reasonable to suggest that he may have begun reading Shakespeare when he was quite young. While young people today may find Shakespeare heavy going, that was not necessarily true in the 1800s, and Isaac was certainly a great fan when he was in his twenties, already familiar with Shakespeare's plays. I suspect he began reading Shakespeare very early.
Thank you to everyone who has shared their favorite childhood books and stories about their early love of reading. Next week I will conclude this series on children's books with a special look at two specific types of books.